“White headed cabbage”

I’m still working on the post about Social Security. And I’m still snowed under at work. So don’t expect the post any time soon. But, while you wait [1], here’s something fun: Christmas Colcannon.

What is colcannon? The name is Erse for “White headed cabbage”, which is about as descriptive as calling pecan pie “that crunchy sweet thing”. Colcannon is a classic peasant dish, made from the ingredients that they had on had: potatoes and cabbage. It varies in consistency from thick as mashed potatoes to thin as soup, but it is always hot, rich, and tasty.

To make colcannon, you’ll need:

3 medium potatoes per person
3 leaves of kale per person
1 ham hock or 1/4 lb back bacon per person
1/4 c milk per person
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Start by sauteing the ham hock in a heavy pan. Once the ham has a nice browning on it, add enough water to cover it and let the water simmer for fifteen minutes.

While the water is simmering, clean the outside of the potatoes [2], then dice them in 1/2 in cubes. Take out the ham and set it aside to cool. Add the potatoes and cook them to fork-tender.

Meanwhile, chiffonade the kale [3] being sure to remove the stalk first [4]. Then dice the ham. Remove the potatoes from the water and add the kale to the water.

Mash the potatoes and add the milk, salt and pepper. Remove the kale (which should have turned bright green by now) and stir it and the ham into the potatoes. Serve with a large dollop of butter and some crusty bread. Enjoy!


[1] And I know that you are just waiting with bated breath.

[2] At this point, any real Irish person is now upset with me as I didn’t tell you to peel the potatoes. I have three reasons for that. First, peeling potatoes takes time, which is something that is always in short supply in a peasant household. Second, leaving the peels on increases the vitamin and fiber ontent considerably. And third, I happen to like them better that way – so there.

[3] Or you could just cut it into long, thin strips.

[4] THe first time I made this dish, I left out that step. The colcannon was still tasty, but it was a lot chewier than it should have been…


5 thoughts on ““White headed cabbage”

  1. I’ve posted my Irish Gran’s recipe for “slop” before — it’s a bit like this. We only have it during summer as that’s when all the ingredients are ripe, together: cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, onions. Otherwise, it’s similar.

  2. Until the end I was going to say, oh that’s interesting, a recipe with no butter! We’re trying to get away from it although the fake stuff is not too healthy and olive oil just makes everything in the pan taste weird. Looks like a great recipe though, kale is not easy to work with but it’s chock full of nutrients (so long as it’s not slathered in fat). Oh, and I like the potato skins on as well.

    Have you read Salted by Mark Bitterman? His Meadow store’s artesinal salts can really transform a meal.

    1. The good thing about waiting until the very end to add the butter, salt, and pepper is that you can adjust them to your taste. Me, I like a lot of real butter and a dash of salt and pepper. But if you want yours the other way around, go for it!

  3. Yesterday I fixed some turnip greens that a friend had given me. They were older and stronger than the ones she gave us last year; we didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. Today I mixed a large dollop of the leftovers into some also leftover mashed potatoes I had from a previous meal. The potatoes did a very nice job of toning down the greens. Made them absolutely tasty.

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